Seasonal Fruit

1st October.\r\n\r\nNew month. New cycle of psalms.\r\n\r\nThe Coverdale translation of the Psalms in the Book of Common Prayer is tolerable (just about, to my modern mind) because of the benefits of pattern, structure and rhythm the daily division of the Psalter offers to my life.\r\n\r\nEvery day, for thirty days, morning and evening, the Psalms packaged up to be read in a month.\r\n\r\nOn a month with 31 days I read the Ordinal – the ordination service – on the 31st, which follows straight after the Psalms. It’s good to remind myself what God, my Bishop and the church requires of me.\r\n\r\nBut today, the 1st October, as I turned back to Psalm 1, I paused at the Commination, a little known and hardly used public liturgy describing sins and judgements found in the Bible. It’s been a while since I read it and so this morning I spent a few minutes going through it, I have to say reasonably quickly because it’s not the most enjoyable text in the book.\r\n\r\nAfter the initial introduction and responses, the Commination doesn’t hold back on painting a pretty bleak picture of God’s judgement. There are no paragraphs, just one great block of unrelenting text. And about a fifth of the way through it says this:\r\n

‘For now is the axe put to the root of the trees,\r\n so that every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit\r\n is hewn down, and cast into the fire.’

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That goes to the heart of the fear and guilt many Evangelicals face when they reflect on their life.

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Fruitlessness.

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How many times have I sat under a sermon where the preacher has expected action on my part – where action equals fruit – from ‘winning the lost’ to serving the poor. And yet most days are just – ordinary days. Up, eat, work, home, eat, TV, bed. Sometimes a home group or PCC meeting (do they count?).

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The good pastor doesn’t leave the congregation without hope, but turns the page from the Commination to Psalm 1 to paint the whole picture.

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‘Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the way of sinners …\r\n But his delight is in the law of the Lord…\r\n And he shall be like a tree planted by the waterside:\r\n that will bring forth his fruit in due season.\r\n His leaf shall not wither:\r\n and look, whatsoever he doeth, it shall prosper.’

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Of course, we remember, fruit is seasonal.

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Nowhere in the garden do we have continual fruit. For two years our blackcurrent bush was fruitless while it bedded in but our apple tree – in it’s season – was prolific. The strawberries weren’t as fruitful as we had hoped, but in due course some fruit appeared. The chillies were great, the tomatoes were small. And so on.

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That’s not to say that we aren’t surprised sometimes by unseasonal fruit, or that there aren’t other times which we expect to be fruitful that turn out not to be, at least as far as we can see with our limited perspective.

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But we should be encouraged. This psalm reminds us that while waiting for seasonal fruit the tree can be still be thriving. It’s a picture of flourishing, not a picture of a long winter between seasons of fruit.

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And the secret to thriving? Be planted in the right place.

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We may not be able to force out the fruit, but we can take control of our garden.

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And for more on fruit see Seeds in my Pocket